Reprinted from today's
Monroe News USA TODAY NETWORK
Written by: Tyler Eagle
The dawn of another industrial revolution will change how businesses and manufacturing enterprises operate.
And business leaders say there are steps area businesses can take to better prepare for those shifting trends.
The Monroe County Business Development Corporation sponsored a discussion on the matter Wednesday morning in a program called, “Industry 4.0: Changing the Way We Manufacture.”
Conducted via Zoom, the webinar explored how small and mid-sized manufacturers can augment their operations in an effort to increase productivity and better allocate their resources. A large push into Industry 4.0 is the assimilation of technology and data collection into manufacturers’ everyday processes.
“This topic is critical to the future economic vitality of Monroe County,” said Matthew Vanisacker, vice president of business development at the BDC.
The manufacturing sector is the second largest industry and second biggest contributor to gross regional product in the county, according to BDC officials.
George Singos, the Industry 4.0 business leader advisor for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, discussed how the manufacturing industry is changing.
There has been a lot of talk across the state on the impact of Industry 4.0, he said, adding particularly when it comes to those considered small and midsized manufacturers.
That applies to more than half of the 12,000 manufacturing businesses established within the state, he said. An area that will see much change is the workforce, particularly in the face of an increased integration of automation.
“There is a global trend to reduce the amount of non-added value work that people do and shift that to added value,” Singos said.
There are approximately 608,000 manufacturing jobs in Michigan. More than half — about 358,000 — can be impacted by automation.
And companies can navigate that by exploring how to repurpose those workers to figure out how reduce redundancy and better support production goals, Singos added.
Monitoring technology also is increasingly important and can help mitigate the impact of work stoppages.
Many businesses can benefit from the inclusion of sensors into their manufacturing equipment, which can help manufacturers anticipate work stoppages or the need for equipment repair and maintenance, according to Singos.
The technology is affordable and has accessible price points, he added. A few thousand dollars can purchase such sensors, he said. And businesses don’t have to jump in with all of their machines at once or buy completely new ones. Singos said many operating machines can be retrofitted with sensors.
Singos advised businesses start small and track changes to productivity and output. If that technology proves successful, businesses can scale it to address more machines. “If (the technology shift) fails, you’re going to fail cheap and early,” Singos said. “Target some machines and then scale it.”
That process will spur data, which will also be increasingly important in the future. Data that examines scheduling, output and whether targets are met can be invaluable and help determine areas of improvement or growth potential, according to Singos.
The data can also be used to identify the most useful technology. Singos touched on co-bots. Automation robots are often self-contained and kept away from workers, he said. Co-bots are meant to compliment actual workers and make their tasks easier, Singos said.
“A co-bot can work with you” Singos said. “If it comes to you, it can stop at your hand or arm … It’s a safe operation.”
Cyber security is also an area manufacturers need to consider, especially in an era where technology and wireless communication is increasingly common.
“There is just way too much information floating around that is insecure,” Singos said. “Talk to your IT manager — ask what equipment and systems are at risk (of a data breach).”
Singos and the BDC will be showcasing equipment that can help manufacturers during the shift to Industry 4.0. An event, called Industry 4.0 Road Show: Monroe County, will take place 1 p.m. May 18 at The Mall of Monroe.